Paxton Special

I have a new companion for the Austin 7 Opal sitting in my garage. It goes by the name of a Paxton Special. The poor thing arrived at midnight, looking very small on the back of a large car transporter having travelled all the way from Perth in Scotland. No, I don’t know what possessed me to buy something so far away and unseen, apart from a few photographs and a short video, but there was something about it which made it a ‘must have’.

Paxton Special 1The Paxton was designed by Colin Westwood in 1985 as a lightweight special body to meet the requirements of those who hadn’t the capability, or the time, to build their own, but wanted an attractive sports/racing car which could also be competitive if required. The body is based on a folded aluminium floor pan riveted to wooden sides of 3/16” exterior grade plywood, the stressed plywood panels are re-inforced by lamination at the edges, wing mounting points etc. and the floor pan incorporates the transmission tunnel and a transverse tunnel for the back axle.  The engine has a downdraught S.U. carburettor and a four-branch exhaust manifold fitted.

 

Paxton Special 3Paxton Special 4

Despite its light weight, the car appears to have adequate strength whilst retaining some flexibility, according to contemporary reports of the time. The ‘all up’ weight of the car is about 6 cwt. compared with a Ruby of some 12 cwt. This gives the comforting thought that halving the body weight, doubles the braking efficiency, as well as the power to weight ratio: although twice nothing is still nothing, in some people’s eyes. 

Paxton Special 2Having gleaned all the above from various magazines of the time, I set about inspecting my car and I must say I have been pleasantly surprised. It all seems to be in good fettle. The most obvious alteration I had to make was to the pedal arrangement, the previous owner must have been quite a short gentleman and had fitted a block on the brake pedal which meant my size 10 plates of meat covered both the brake and the accelerator pedals: not ideal when trying to reverse off the transporter when it first arrived. The cockpit is quite small and whilst getting in isn’t too bad, extrication is entirely another matter. After some practice, it is possible, without dislocation of various joints.

There was quite a lot of documentation that came with the car including an aluminium plate bearing the Westwood factory name plus a registration number of PX 002. So, I have the second one ever produced; my word, my excitement began to rise!  There was also a letter from the 750 Motor Club general secretary to a later owner stating that he knew the car and the builder and had driven the car at Goodwood. The builder was one Mike Treganowan who had won the 750 Club’s Direct Insurance Austin Seven Racing series in 1986.

Wow, does this mean I have a real race car sitting in my garage? I am now on the search for more details from the 750 Club. The car was sold in 1988 to an engineering company in the southeast of England. who converted the racer into a road-going vehicle and registered it with an age-related number having established the car was built on a 1932 Chummy chassis. The next owner took the car up to Scotland in 1994 and there it remained with very little information until this year when I brought it back to warmer climes. I can’t see a return to the race tracks although a few hill climbs or sprints may be a strong possibility.  

 

Note: The Paxton Special was produced as a lightweight body for an Austin 7 chassis. Both short and long wheelbase versions were available which included wings and windscreens.  Produced from 1985 with a starting price of £310, but with all the extras raised to £608, by C.W. Westwood, 1/7 Paxton Place, London, SE27 9SS  (Paxton Special – Austin 7 Special Register (a7special.co.uk)

 

This article, written by Peter Hodson, originally appeared in Seven Focus December 2022, pp12-13.


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